This is that time of year for us, especially us Catholics, to ask ourselves if we are ready to get healthier.
And as I set those words down, I can almost hear her voice.
It was a long time ago, a very long time ago.
She was one of the members of that season’s RCIA group. And for those not familiar with those letters – RCIA – Try Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is a process whereby adults, perhaps sensing some movement of God in their lives, enter into a discernment process. Is God calling them? Asking something of them? Leading them somewhere they as yet, perhaps, have not fully been. And dare they respond to such a call. What may it cost? What are its risks? What might happen to their lives from that moment on?
RCIA involves some study, more reflection and much, much more prayer. It can be a difficult and challenging life movement.
Anyhow, so many years ago, I was leading one of the study sessions for the RCIA group and Lent was approaching and so I decided to spend some time presenting some background and history behind the development of the season we now call Lent. As I came into more contemporary times, I talked about some of the communal Lenten practices: fasting (which meant no food, nothing, nada between meals and two small daily meals (sufficient to maintain strength but both, together, not having as much food as the one, allowed main meal.) Food consumption was reduced greatly during those Forty Days. And then there was abstaining from all meats and meat by-products.
Fridays (Lent and all year long) were days of total abstaining together with a number of additional days throughout the year, which meant on those designated days there would be no meat or those meat by-products. But back in the day, when Monday through Saturday every week in Lent were days of fasting, that also meant at least partial abstaining. Meat only at the main meal and never in between all week long.
As I described these Lenten dietary regulations, one voice spoke up. The RCIA lady, a professional nurse. And she asked the question. “Why did you quit all of that?” she asked. “It sounds very healthy to me!”
And, of course, she was right.
Too many of us eat too much and we definitely eat too much meat.
And that got me thinking.
And more than thinking. It got me acting.
For a good number of years, every Lent, I tried to get “healthier.” Monday through Saturday for me became meatless, totally meatless. I allowed myself some bacon at breakfast on the Sundays and also some of that meat and meat by-product stuff through the day, but those Lenten weekdays became meatless.
It was my Lenten “body cleanse.”
In more recent years I will confess to putting that practice aside.
However, as this year’s Lent approached, I began to hear that voice again, yes, even after all of these years. “Why did you quit?” Only this year I am hearing it with a new and richer meaning.
If you haven’t been paying attention, lately studies have been demonstrating how our prodigal consumption of meats is negatively impacting our environment. What it takes to raise, feed and maintain those animals that are slaughtered tor our dinner tables is harming the health of Mother Earth and Sister Air and Brother Water.
There is much now being said and written about Catholics going back to at very least forgoing meat again on all Fridays throughout the year. Something called meatless Mondays is also beginning to get some attention. And the meatless call is going out even beyond Catholic boundaries.
(If you want a quick glimpse of what studies are showing, check this article out: America Magazine: Catholics and Meat.)
And it is, as that very wise RCIA nurse declared, healthier!
Not just for us but for the world in which we live.
Reducing the amount of meat we consume is proving to be healthier for us and for our environment.
So, for Lent again this year, I will be passing on the meat and meat by-products.
I invite you to consider joining me. Maybe you are not yet ready for the Monday through Saturday regime but how about adding one or two additional days to the already set Fridays together with Ash Wednesday? And going a step further, how about considering a more permanent lifestyle change and reducing your consumption of meat even outside of Lent?
It just may make you healthier.
And it will make our beautiful but suffering world healthier.
Oh! And if this may be your concern – go ahead. Enjoy that corned beef on St Patrick’s Day!